52 Books a Year: #43 - Journey into the Heart

Posted by Brian Wed, 23 Dec 2009 18:18:58 GMT

Journey into the Heart
By David Monagan


Journey Into the Heart tells the story of the development of modern heart disease treatment, starting with the first attempts at open heart surgery through the development of angioplasty. Monagan gives a cursory treatment to the development of bypass surgeries and heart transplants, but the bulk of the book deals with Andreas Gruentzig’s development of angioplasty. Several things stand out about the early development of heart treatments. The first was the complete absence of ethical oversight in some of the early treatments. New surgical techniques were tried in the spur of the moment. One early pioneer, Werner Forssmann even inserted the first heart catheter into himself through his arm after tricking a nurse into giving him access to the necessary equipment to demonstrate that it was possible. In the end Gruentzig’s pioneering technique spawned a multi-billion dollar medical instrument industry and forever changed the course of surgical treatments. While his technique focused on treating heart disease, it showed that non-invasive treatments could be extremely effective in treating serious diseases.

Journey definitely falls towards the popular side of popular science books. I felt the book was heavy on the personal aspects of Gruentzig that I wasn’t all that interested in, while very little detail was paid to the actual treatment developments. Pictures or diagrams of various catheters and balloons as they were being described would have been very helpful as well. I found it very difficult to picture the different types of instruments that Gruentzig was developing. The writing I would consider to be very average. If you are curious about the development of angioplasty though this seems like a find place to start.


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